I’d like to believe friendship is about caring about someone unconditionally despite another’s quirks, habits, annoyances, or disabilities. I think horses subscribe to this theory as well. This observation came to me so clearly on a special day a few weeks ago.
Jake came to our farm, afraid of us, unsure of the other horses and relied on his buddy Buck to be by his side. After awhile, Buck and Jake were separated to different pastures. Let me back up and tell you that Jake has stringhalt (A nervous disorder in horses characterized by spasmodic movements in the hind legs that cause the feet to rise abnormally high). This is a disability that gives Jake a quirky walk (or as we like to call it “his dance”). Soon we found Jake, standing by himself in his new pasture not socializing with the other horses, or with us for that matter. We tried to assure him that we loved him and that we were there to help him but he still was distant. Until Dr. Bell, DC was kind enough to donate his chiropractic skills to help Jake. Dr. Bell would massage and adjust Jake’s spine. Soon Jake was receiving regular visits from Dr. Bell and I honestly believe it was those visits that made Jake realize that we really did care for him.
Days later Dee gave me amazing news. Jake had found a friend. Zulu and Jake had become fast friends. They hung out together in the pasture, comforted each other, and would call to each other if separated. Jake has now become part of his herd and is thriving. Now, he is one of the first ones to the gate to give a sweet hello nicker. My heart just melts. I love my Jake.
Coincidentally, while this transformation was taking place, I had learned about a wonderful group that also encourages friendship and acceptance. A Touch of Understanding (www.touchofunderstanding.org) gave a presentation at my work and it really opened my eyes to the wonderful work and ideals that they are promoting. ATOU’s mission statement is “to encourage acceptance and respect for all individuals and to minimize the discrimination and misunderstanding experienced by people with disabilities.”
How amazing it is to find that in our little herd, Zulu had accepted Jake despite his disability. Zulu doesn’t see Jake as a horse with a disability, just that he is a good friend. What wonderful lessons animals can teach us! I have so much more appreciation for ATOU and what they are doing because they are promoting what Zulu already knew. How to be a friend to someone who may be just a bit different or who may have a disability.
I encourage you to visit ATOU’s website, they are a fantastic group of people!! And I hope that you remember when you see someone standing alone in their pasture, that you find the kindness in your heart just to be a good friend. That may be all they need to join the herd.